Parents upset Fargo Public Schools didn’t mention special education in its proposed reopening plans

A couple says they feel that their autistic kids are being left out
Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 6:16 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Nathan and Cassandra Johnson have four kids between them and three are autistic.

They expressed frustration to Valley News Live on the proposed plans Fargo Public Schools released this week on reopening this upcoming year. Part of the plan includes postponing the first day classes to September 8 from August 27.

“We had a lot of issues with Fargo Public Schools last year,” Cassandra said.

The couple said the school system has left their kids behind since adopting remote learning in the spring, after the coronavirus pandemic migrated teaching to online.

“There’s no occupational therapy that they can do. They can’t do physical therapy. They can’t do speech therapy. All of which are services that my child receives in school,” Cassandra said.

Their oldest son, a high school senior, struggled last school year.

“There’s no way that he can keep up with the curriculum that they’ve been asking us to follow for him. And it’s like well, okay. What do we do?” Cassandra said.

What also frustrated them was during a 90 minute virtual information session Fargo Public Schools held on Wednesday, administrators did not mention special education.

“Parents got to work and...not having the special education addressed, it’s got to be disheartening for the other parents just as much as it is for us,” Nathan said.

In a statement provided to Valley News Live, Fargo Public Schools said it wasn’t intentional for them to leave special education out of its slides. The district added its special education department is working diligently to ensure equitable education for all students.

“Not to even mention special education students in the meeting this week really made parents feel that their kids once again are left out,” Brenda Ruehl of the North Dakota Advocacy and Protection Project said.

The group advocates for those with disabilities and Ruehl said Fargo schools have a history of overlooking those in special education. The pandemic has compounded that issue.

“The parents that have talked to me, so their frustration lies with the special ed department and the superintendent’s office,” Ruehl said.

Fargo Public Schools also stated its plans for reopening are fluid and the school board will meet Thursday at 8 a.m. to discuss it.

Here’s a link to the information session Fargo Public Schools held Wednesday and below is their full statement.

Fargo Public Schools is currently drafting its Smart Restart Plan for the 2020-21 school year. During the parent input sessions held on July 22, we recognize there was not a slide focused solely on Special Education Services for our students. That was not intentional. Our Special Education Department is working diligently to provide an equitable education for all students on Individual Education Plans as we navigate COVID-19. The FPS Smart Restart Plan that is released to our community will identify the programming for students receiving special education services.

Fargo Public Schools

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